Between Two Worlds

2 min
at 11:43 PM

I grew up in a fundamentalist evangelical denomination in rural Caldwell Idaho.

My husband's family all live in San Francisco,

Unfortunately, when I am in both of my homes - San Francisco and Caldwell - I too often hear disparaging black and white thinking from the people I love. If I am right the opposing viewpoint by definition is wrong. This kind of us vs. them thinking leads to words like "idiot" and "crazy" and "I'm glad I don't know any people like that!"

Scrolling through my Facebook page recently, I read inflammatory memes posted by old Idaho classmates. One read, "Time to wake up and see how many liberals I can piss off today."

Here, friends and family automatically roll their eyes when words like "Republican" or "evangelical" come up. When I say I am from Idaho, I sometimes hear, "Where's your gun?"

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Perhaps it is easier to create a solid sense of home on a foundation of similar religious and political beliefs. Even in the diverse and tolerant Bay Area, where home is, at least in theory, the warm embrace of difference and creativity, many scorn viewpoints not their own, just like in Idaho.

As a social scientist, I know people are more likely to respect differences when they have diverse friends. So for years, I have played devil's advocate to encourage discussion beyond comfortable cliches. Sometimes, I have been heard. Other times, I have been shouted down.

But, there are compassionate questions to help us find common ground: "Why do the people I disagree with believe what they do? And what do I have in common with them?"

We need to find our way back to discussing politics and religion as neighbors, not rivals. As a social experiment, my Republican parents have agreed to put the Bernie 2016 magnet I sent them on their car to see how long it will take before it gets stolen or vandalized. I have put a Kasich magnet on my plug-in Prius to see what kind of reaction I get here, too.

With a Perspective, I'm Coline McConnel.

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Coline McConnel is a mother of two and lives in San Francisco.

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